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How to choose a ballhead tripod combination


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#1 Virgil

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 06:45 PM

Hi Folks, as i recently purchased my tripod / ballhead combo i had to decide which ballhead to choose. As a rule of thumb itīs said that if a ballhead has a mentioned capacity of say 30kg in total the maximum load your gear has not to exceed 1/3 or 10kg. Donīt ask me why this rule is applicable or who invented it - i couldnīt find it out. Personally i donīt see that this rule is applicable rather then academical for one reason - there is a vendor stating 12kg which logically would mean 4kg maximum gear weight. I tested this particular head with more then 4kg and it worked flawlessly. I think there is a bit of myth when it comes to tripods and ballheads like seen in hifi where only stuff was recommended that cost a fortune. After some testing it turned out that eg. simple speaker cables performed superior to the high-end cables worth which cost hundreds of USD. Generally it can be said that premium ballheads are more or less the same as far as performance is concerned. So it comes down to personal taste - some have a seperate friction knob, some have a integrated one. Some have the knobs a bit tighter some a bit farther away from eachother. There are models in different colours available but also in plain black or grey. No matter what brand it is - if itīs a renown brand you donīt need to worry about figures that much except maybe for the weight of the head itself cos this could become an issue. Not so much if you bought a heavy tripod capable of carrying enormous loads but if itīs a traveling tripod (read: a very light one with low capacity) every gramm counts. Mine for example carries a max.-load of 5.5kg. If you now calculate 1.1kg for a D2-body and say 1.3kg for my longest lens plus 0.4kg for the ballhead you end up with roughly 2.5kg and a bit of reserve in terms of maximum load of the tripod was never wrong. Wrap up: if youīre unsure if the stuff youīve choosen from a catalogue or the vendorīs homepage works for you see your local dealer and test it with your gear. If it works for you donīt let you talk in brands or products which simply cost you much more but donīt add anything to your work.
Cheers

Virgil

#2 Rick Paul

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 09:46 PM

All I can say in reply is I have the Markins Ballhead M20 and it is fantastic. I do not regret the price I paid. This head is fantastically smooth. Supports my 80-200 f/2.8 from the camera base (no lens tripod mount) no sweat. I know that RSS and Kirk also make good ballheads, but they are all in the same basic price range, and I can't image a better ballhead than Markins. I was fortunate that I got to handle a Markins before I bought, so I knew what I was getting. Highly recommend to anyone considering this purchase to investigate all options before investing. A good tripod/ballhead is a lifelong investment. Choose right the first time, and you won't need to invest again!

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#3 Bill Dewey

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 12:23 AM

The Thom Hogan Tripod Page is a good read for everyone. I have generally heard that you want to stay at about 50% of the "rated" load, one thing to remember here is that the component with the "least" load is the limiting factor. In Thom's article he talks briefly about "weight on the top" versus the weight of the whole rig as well. This is why many of us who shoot long lenses hang extra weight under the tripod. What also helps is having long lenses on a gimbal vs. a ballhead.

I want to add 2 points to your fine article regarding ballheads, both from personal experience. One test to do, if you can, is to put your camera and most-used lens on the ballhead, tilt it off vertical and tighten the knob. If you see the camera starting to droop, the ball is "creeping" and you know that no matter what the spec says, it won't adequately hold your system. Look for one that will. Second point is that you want to be sure that when you tension the ball it doesn't, the tension screw doesn't "dig into" the ball, as this will scratch it and cause it to not move smoothly. The "better" ballheads force a curved plate onto the ball, much like a brake pad, rather than simply pushing the head of a screw against the ball.

Great article, and I especially agree with your conclusion regarding "brands".

#4 Virgil

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 01:13 AM

@ Rick - i might add the following to your recommondation: the product in question is for user which plan to use a very heavy tripod (high max. load, very sturdy) in combination with heavy bodies and lenses (500mm and above). For other applications it simply might be an overkill in weight and price.

@ Bill - your advise about creep is very important. Thanks for bringing up this point as it helps the user to determine which ballhead is sufficient.

Another general advise is this: sales-people tend to talk you into their biggest (and most expensive) ballhead. Whilst having reserves isnīt wrong in so many fields right sizing isnīt wrong either. So, if the sales-person donīt ask you about your equipment (weight, longest lens) he has most likely no idea about ballheads. Anyhow - Billīs advise is priceless - try it out yourself! if the whole combo creeps and/or doesnīt handle intuitively the ballhead isnīt sufficient for you.

Most important is i think that you donīt buy in unquestioned obedience what some "gurus" want to make you think is what YOU need.
Cheers

Virgil

#5 Neil Rothschild

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 01:36 AM

Thom Hogan has a very good web page arguing that you should spend $1000 up front for a tripod and ballhead. He walks you through a real life example where you spend about $700 or so and never get what you want, and end up spending the $1000 in the end anyway. He describes all the issues related to lower priced support...

http://www.bythom.com/support.htm

You can quibble with the exact configuration that he recommends and you can shave some money off of that, but I think his basic principles are sound. That page is a good read, and if one were to try to spend significantly less than that, at least you know what compromises you are making. The important thing is to make an informed decision up front. I've seen many posts on the internet from people going through exactly what he describes.

As far as ballhead weight, the weight ratings of at least some ballheads are based on the amount of weight that the ballhead can sustain without slipping while in a locked down position. The Q3 you bought (or are thinking about) is rated for 65 LBs. Interestingly, it has a higher rating than the RRS BH-55 (50LBs). I've never played with a Q3 but I kind of doubt it will properly support a bigger lens than a BH-55. There is some voodoo here and Markins has taken a lot of heat over their raings, which exceed most of the other good heads. OTOH I've never seen anyone disprove their ratings.

Markins published some data explaining the system they use for determining the weight rating. It's actually more of a torque rating and goes something like this... my numbers may be inexact but they are close. They clamp a metal bar to the ballhead (or clamp) so that it sits horizontally. They hang a weight one inch, I think, from the clamp and add to it until the ball head sags. That establishes the load rating. As they explain it, they apparentloy will then move the weight out from the center of gravity and reduce the weight accordingly, to get a computation of essentially inch-pounds of torque that the ballhead can withstand without sagging. At 2 inches, the Q3 should support about 32.5 LBs. At 6.5" it should support only 10 pounds, etc. I don't think any other manufacturer discloses their rating methodology.

The important thing, though, is not the rate weighting but how well the ballhead can handle a particular weight when it isn't locked down, but tensioned to it's sweet spot. The better heads can be moved and repositioned without locking down. I know this is true of the Markins (I rarely lock mine down) and assume the same is true of the Kirk and RRS, etc., to a greater or lesser degree. Markins claims to be better at that but I have no experience with the other heads. The correct "load" on a ballhead like the Q3 is that load which pans smoothly, allowing you to precisely control the framing without a lot of fiddling.

Did you buy that 200-400VR? I think I mentioned to you previously that the Q3 might be a little undersized for that lens, or at least I haven't heard of many people using it with that lens, except on a monopod, which was it's design mission. The Q3 will certainly hold up a 200-400; even with a D2H. That payload is maybe 25% of it's rated capacity. You may or may not be happy with the smoothness, though, and for the $270 cost of the head, it should be smooth under it's load. An M10 would be smoother. An M20 might even be better, although based on my tests with a 500 F/4P I'm not sure how much incremental benefit. The important thing is not to end up unhappy with the smoothness of the panning to save 30%.

There does seem to be at least a rough concensus among users as to what heads can handle various lenses.

In your case, you are trying to balance needs for portability verses payload and in that context this wasn't a great example but I think it illustrates how the voodoo of payload ratings are applied in the real world. The hard part is quantifying "smoothness". I know it when I see it but I can't quantify it.

All the above may not apply well to the less expensive heads, which aren't really designed to be shot without locking down and don't have panning sweetspots.

Tripods work the same way, I think. My G1228 is rated at 17 LBs. My 500 F/4P weighs about 8LBs. Add 4 LBs for the camera and the head, maybe another couple for a Sidekick. I'm still under the rated payload and I have mounted that lens on the legs but I wouldn't want to shoot it, especially at slower shutter speeds. Gitzso's can probably be taken to about 50% of their payload. That would be about 8.5LBs for my G1228, which is about right, maybe on the high side for good performance, and 17LBs for my G1410, which can certainly handle that load. People put 400 2.8's and 600 F/4's on the 1325, rated at 26LB and that load generally exceeds 50% of the payload.

Regards,
Neil

#6 Dave Whiteley

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 03:53 AM

Agreeing with most of the above posts, but conventional photographers do tend to shoot straight ahead. If you are a macrophotographer you will be shooting at 45 degrees or straight down many times so always test the ball head with the centre column and camera plus lens at 45 degrees to see if you get any creep on the ball, or even with the centre column horizontal (if you have a tripod really suitable for natural history macro work) and the camera on the ball head (or pan and tilt one come to that). Not only the ball head should not creep with the camera pointing vertically downwards but a decent macro lenses focusing action should not creep either pointing straight down, as many conventional zooms will. Dave Whiteley
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#7 Epideme

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 04:15 AM

Neil's and Bill's pointers to Thom Hogan's stuff on tripods and ball heads is well worth following up for a good read. I read his stuff and started to recognise that I was heading down the repetitive buying route, I ended up buying a Markins M20 and Wimberley Sidekick for my 200-400VR which has to be said is probably one of the best investments I've ever made. Having struggled with cheaper and less well constructed kit in the past the transition was almost a revelation! I now find myself using the combo with my 70-200VR as well. If anyone is planning on getting bigger glass further down the line then I would highly recommend making the investment, you will be suprised how much it will improve your photography. Paul

#8 Virgil

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 05:55 AM

@ Neil - youīre absolutely right - period. But as no one can rate smoothness no one can tell which load rating / methotology is the point of total truth. So itīs a hit and miss. Here is another factor not mentioned - personal preference - a photog whoīs into birding but never shoot reportage has for sure other needs then the guy who does the opposite. Thatīs what i meant by right-sizing and thatīs what also Thom did. He has several tripods/heads for different applications and i may end up like him. But the advise to buy once but the latest and greatest and youīre done for ever doesnīt work ... at least for me. @ Paul - ok, ok - tell me constantly that you got the 200-400VR allready ... why not post a user review? Iīd really like to read about the dreamlens of mine. Oh and donīt forget to add some shots *grrrrrrrrr* ;)
Cheers

Virgil

#9 Dave Whiteley

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 07:44 AM

I think the thing even Thom Hogan missed, or did not stress enough, is that whilst putting the camera on a decent tripod goes most of the way to getting the best out of your lens, if you are still pressing the shutter button rather than using a remote release you still will not get the best out of your lens because you are disturbing the camera near the moment of exposure, before any vibrations you introduce can damp down. Using the self-timer helps, but a remote release is better. Obviously, if you are panning to track moving objects and just using the tripod to steady the camera this is not an option But then if the cameras moving you will never get anywhere near your lenses ultimate resolution anyway, or ever with hand holding. In fact if you are an action photographer you may simply be wasting money on highly resolving lenses anyway because you will never see any advantage in your type of photography. In lens testing many of these theoretical lines per millimeter are obtained with the lens, camera and target "bolted down" on a vibration isolation platform. Now they use fancy devices but in the past this could consist of a heavy block of concrete to provide inertia standing on a sand bed or pnumatic isolators, as even traffic passing on a nearby road when using the best tripods available, or people walking near could reduce the lenses ultimate resolution. Obviously we are never going to achieve such lines per millimeter in normal use, but the more camera freedom you require to take your shots, hand holding or panning the camera, and the less load you wish to carry, the less point there is in buying highly resolving lenses because these will perform no better than a medium priced one under these conditions. In any case, most of this resolution is lost in the final reproduction because few normal sized prints and no projector or monitor screens can show such resolution anyway Dave Whiteley
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#10 Neil Rothschild

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 11:52 AM

Some further thoughts....

1) Agree with the above.. it is very difficult to get one perfect set of legs. Most serious tripod shooters end up with at least two sets, one optimized for portability and one optimized for stability. The first set of legs should probably err on the side of the most expected usage, I guess. No easy answer there.

2) As mentioned above, ball heads work best when used near level. The greater the angle, the more tendency to creep in the sweet spot. What is a sweet spot for level use may not be sufficient for an extreme angle and what is sufficient tension for an extreme angle may not be as smooth as you would like.

The original Arca-Swiss ball head was elliptical in an attempt to overcome this, but got a bad rep for locking up. They have supposedly fixed this problem in later models.

If you are going to do a lot of macro it pays to over engineer the ball heads because all other things equal (same lens and payload weight) a bigger ball head, within a particular maker's line, will have a broader sweetspot in terms of smoothness at extreme angles and level. This is the biggest difference I have seen with my new M20 verses my M10 and something I tested as soon as I got the new head. At near level, the heads perform about the same with even a 500 F/4P + TC14B at 700mm.

3) Many of these products, such as Markins and RRS and Kirk, can not be seen at your local dealer. Although most offer a return period, in many cases it will take weeks or months before you know if you made the right decision. It is the nature of support that really no portable photographic tripod is ideal. The ideal tripod is a concrete pier sunk in the ground with a 3 foot foundation. Everything else, even a Gitzo 5 series, is a compromise. I think this is why people tend to go to "excess", but if you have done any long lens work at 500mm+ or deep macro, you've been there and done that and you know what I am talking about.

To make things more difficult, every different combination of tripod, head, camera body and lens behaves differently. You can get a tripod and it will work great for your existing main lens, but another lens, even if not dramatically heavier, may behave differently. Or you go from a D200 to a D2H or D2X; that changes things.

I'm not saying you have to go to excess, but on the other hand, there is no sin there and if you can, you will be thankful in the long run. I'm trying to walk a fine line here.

4) There are some very counterintuitive realities. For example, did you know that the absolutely LEAST stable method of shooting is the self timer, or a remote in simple single shot mode? I've done some tests that indicate that using a self time can result in blurrier images than firing the shutter with your finger.

Why? Because a single point suspension, which is the case for most cameras/lenses, has nothing to eliminate the "tuning fork" tendencies of vibrations to run back and forth from end to end. Putting your hand on the camera to fire the shutter is 1/2 or 1/3 of Long Lens Technique. It creates a crude two point suspension. Not very efficient but it is actually better than firing from a remote without MLU. True LLT results in 3 point suspension. Your hand on the camera does two things:

1) It damps mirror slap and other micro vibrations

2) It can introduce large scale vibrations and here skill and daring determines how these two affects play out. Sloppy shooting will make things worse, but careful shooting can damp out the mirror slap.

I learned this from some test images. I was testing some other aspects of my support systems; this came as quite a surprise:

http://www.pbase.com...964792/original

You can clearly see in the above that...

- Self timer or remote single shot is the least stable
- MLU is best
- A heavier tripod (G1410) allowed me to shoot "machine gun" style with better results than using a self timer or remote. A heavier tripod also makes for more consistent long lens technique at slower shutter speeds.

Although I only include one image of each, I did at least 5 frames of each style to test consistency. The results in my composite were typical results and in most cases my results were pretty consistent.

I'm not sure I agree with Dave about resolution... although certainly shooting dynamic subjects does not deliver the resolution you get when shooting static test charts or subjects, there is a tendency to push the envelope with shutter speeds. Shooting in the afternoon, for example, we tend to shoot until it is hopeless. There is a time, and it often occurs during the best light, where conditions are marginal but not insurmountable. In those cases I do believe I get a better yield using a G1410, for example, than my G1228. At high noon, at 1/1000s, I can shoot any lens on a G1228 and probably do ok. It is at the margins where it matters.

As I have upgraded my support, I have seen an improvement in my results. That is a fact. I have also upgraded my lenses and my camera body, and my skills have improved too. It is impossible to separate all those variables without wasting scarce real world shooting time with lesser gear just for academic interest. That's just my experience over the past couple years.

Here is another test, here comparing the Kirk 300 F/4 AFS collar to the stock collar and foot:

http://www.pbase.com...k_300_f4_collar

Aside from proving that the Kirk collar really does improve things, it also demonstrates that, for example, with a less stable collar I got marginal results at 1/5s using LLT, but my results improved using the Kirk collar. You can substitute any other component in the support system and the results would probably be the same. Some argue that at those shutter speeds you should be using MLU. I know from experience that in many real world wildlife situations, I can catch an animal at a point in time where his isn't moving, but I can't do that using MLU. So for me, LLT is critical and I know from my tests and real world experience that stability rules.

With all that said, of course, if you are shooting landscapes and other static scenes, your needs are not as extreme and you can get away with much less support. Or, maybe, cost or portability dictates that you just don't get that occasional shot that demands better support. That is all part of the grand trade-offs we make.

Regards,
Neil

Edited by Neil Rothschild, 24 January 2007 - 11:57 AM.


#11 Neil Rothschild

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 12:09 PM

I hate to pile on to my last long winded reply, but I think this is very important... 1) If you use bad technique, even the best tripod and head won't give you a good image. See my self timer images on the Gitzo 1410. That is an 8.5LB tank. 2) You can take marginal support a long way with good technique. Your consistency at the margins will decline, but good technique can help improve the situation dramatically. See my LLT images where I did ok, but only above 1/5s. With a lesser tripod, my minimum useable speed with LLT might be much higher. I have seen things on the net such as... "ok, your tripod is not the best, so you need to use the self timer for slow shutter speeds". It should be obvious from everything I have said that that is about the worst advice someone could give, and I see it repeated all the time. That is what I mean by the importance of technique and that is the genesis of my comment about the real world being counterintuitive in some situations. Regards, Neil

Edited by Neil Rothschild, 24 January 2007 - 12:11 PM.


#12 Dave Whiteley

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 01:18 PM

Lets face it, due to lens design the tripod collar is never on the correct part of the lens for balance, if it were it would not need a cantilevered foot! Also adding different cameras to the lens will alter the balance point anyway. Plus putting the collar at the exact point of balance could lead to the whole assembly "nodding" like a see-saw on exposure, whereas an either slightly front or rear heavy configuration could cut this out. One method I saw for damping out camera/lens vibration in macro photography was that after the lens was focused and before exposure a small "bean bag" was draped over the lens to stop it jumping or nodding through mirror slap. This method of adding a little weight to provide inertia to the lens could work in normal tripod photography too. Dave Whiteley
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#13 Virgil

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 01:39 PM

@ Neil - i had to smile reading thru your posting especially about point 4 and your remark about MLU and wildlife shots. I rarely agree with someone to such an extend :) I also feel that we agree that ballheads / tripods should fit a given application which was what i wanted to emphasize and your hughe experience did conform. @ Dave - for sure a block of solid concrete would be the best but i guess not really good to handle :)
Cheers

Virgil

#14 Neil Rothschild

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 02:42 PM

Virgil, In my convoluted way, I was trying to suggest that even if a saleman were to oversell you on support, he could be right, even for the wrong reasons :-) Even a stopped clock is right twice a day! But yes, I agree with what you said. For many uses, a relatively modest set of legs and ballhead will do a great job. I see over and over on the net, and just saw a post about this yesterday (in another forum), where people buy a $300 tripod and ballhead and are immediately dissatisfied. That was the core of Thom Hogan's argument and he is proven right almost everyday. Regards, Neil

#15 Bill Dewey

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 04:54 PM

A local forum I belong to got together a couple of weeks ago. One of the fellows had a Gitzo 1227 or 1228, the difference is 3 vs. 4 section, which is a very nice tripod but also not a real "beefy" tripod. He had an RRS-55 on top. The ballhead, and the RRS is quite low-profile, overpowered the tripod both in size and capacity. It alone made the tripod too top-heavy to be stable. Just one more obnoxious thing to consider in this horrid conundrum.

A lot, as has been described here, also depends on what you are shooting. If you are shooting "moving things", wildlife and birds, then your ballhead, or in my case Gimbals, will not be locked down, and the technique that Neil describes with hand on top of lens provides a lot of stability. One other alternative here is the Rons Rail to really add some stability. I would suggest that you be seated if you read through to the price. Another neat thing, that I have never thought of, is adding a Red Dot sight to the camera, rather than using the viewfinder. Hmmmm.

When I want to shoot a Landscape, however, then I do tighten everything down, and when on the Gimbal I still use the LLT for added stability, although I will often use a Remote Release at the same time.

I must say, this the best thread I have ever participated in on this subject. An amazing amount of info with zero Brand-Wars. Kudo's to us all, I wish there were a "Pat Yourself on the Back" smiley to add.

As to Tripods and Support, I have a Gitzo 1228 which has a Jobu Jr. attached, this is much like a Sidekick but you don't need a ballhead, which I normally use with a D200 and 200-400 AFS VR. My other is a Gitzo 1325 with a full Jobu Black-Widow, this is just like the full Wimberly head, this is used for the D200 and 400 f2.8 AFS-1. I have used the lighter rig with my 400 f2.8, I am just more cautious of how far I extend the 4th leg section. In both cases, if I have the time and resources, I hang added weight under the tripod to help stability.

Lastly, for those shooting Macro, some of the newer tripods with the center posts that can mount horizontally, or like the Giotto's at many angles, and quite nice giving much greater range of motion that just using the adjustments on your ballhead. If you haven't seen any of these, Gitzo/Bogen/Giotto's all have models that will do this, you should take a look.

#16 Virgil

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 05:29 PM

I must say, this the best thread I have ever participated in on this subject. An amazing amount of info with zero Brand-Wars. Kudo's to us all, I wish there were a "Pat Yourself on the Back" smiley to add.


Bill,

i always considered brandwars as something totally stupid and so do the members of Planet Nikon. This unbiased exchange helps as you get real life reviews and user experience you can trust. No one will talk you into something simply cos of a big name or "something he heared from someone". Even if there is a negative experience people here would report it in order to avoid that others may have the same trouble. This does differentiate Planet Nikon positively from many other forums on the web :)

Thanks for the RonsRail link USD 800,- isnīt exactly cheap but if it works ... <_<
Cheers

Virgil

#17 Neil Rothschild

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 06:53 PM

I agree that a 1228 + BH55 just doesn't make sense. It is all out of proportion and top heavy. An M10 on a series 4 base is the opposite- sometimes I can't find mine! I'll have to take an image and post it for grins. I've seen a couple people put together that 1228+BH55 configuration and couldn't talk them out of it. Just from a weight point of view, what is the point of cutting corners on the legs (which you are doing with a 1228) for ultra portability and then adding useless weight?

This is a good case for an M10. The Markins heads are very small for their carrying capacity and that head fits the 2 series plate perfectly, both in size and weight and since weight reduction is a big issue, the lighter Markins makes a good combination. On a 3 series or larger plate, the relative sizes and weights aren't as meaningful. Here is an image of my 1228+M10, to give you an idea of what I mean:

Posted Image

My setup includes the Markins TB20 base plate between the head and the legs, replacing the center column. That is a very nice but relatively expensive setup, slightly more than a 1325. Kirk sells a replacement plate that is a little cheaper and adds a bubble level, something missing from the basic Gitzo and the Markins plate. All this is somewhat superseded by the new 2530 and 2540 models, which include a new center column that has a removable top plate that fits directly to the top of the tripod, eliminating the need for base plates.

The RonsRail is interesting, not so much because it sets a high water mark for replacement feet :lol: but because it is adaptable to any glass you might have now or in the future. Byrzynski makes a bunch of multi-point suspension replacement/add on feet for big glass:

https://www.isarfoto...urzynski nikkor

The problem with Byrzinski is that there are no US distributors (for those West of the pond) and the distributor does not even have images for many of the parts. I've thought about ordering a foot for the 500P but I don't even know what I'd be buying :-). They are relatively reasonably priced, about E150. Yes, I know we have a spy among us (Virgil) and we could send him to the Byrzynski plant to investigate :lol:

Here is another issue that support freaks like to obsess over: How long is your clamp? If you are doing a custom clamp, you can get them up to at least 4" in length. I decided to try an RRS lever clamp on my M20 but I got just the standard 60mm clamp. I do not hold myself out as a clamp expert, but here is my thinking on this most critical subject :lol:

Benefits
--------------
1. Long clamps are sexy and "in". Short clamps could make you feel inadequate, like you're not quite "big enough". For guys like me, with not quite big enough lenses (a 300 2.8, I discussed my feelings of inadequacy in another recent thread, I think) a long clamp might help mitigate these feelings of inadequacy.

2. In some cases, they might help balance a lens that does not otherwise balance well. Personally I don't yet have balancing issues except on my Sidekick. A better solution might be to buy Wimberly plates in the cases where they are longer than the RRS and Kirk plates. Since Wimberly has to deal with balancing their gimbals, they tend to make longer plates. They also need that length for their flash bracket attachments.

3. I have seen it suggested that physics dictates that a longer clamp will add stability, having a longer mating surface with the plate. Not sure I buy that and this is not a widely held view. Any thoughts on this? I could be wrong!

Detractions
-----------------
1. A long clamp is just something else to stick out and maybe clock some other delicate gear when you throw it in the back of your truck or trunk.

2. Depending on the length of the clamp and the height of your ballhead, there could be clearance problems with a sidekick because the clamp is vertical and may encroach on the panning base. In my case, with an M20, RRS lever clamp and Sidekick, I would not want to go much longer and in some situations (depending on how you orient the clamp) you could have a nasty surprise. Not sure of this, though, but it suggests some research is required when considering longer clamps.

3. A long clamp adds weight and if it doesn't mitigate any other issue it is just excess ballast.

4. They cost more and just adding a custom clamp is extravagance enough for me!

What say ye Arca-Swiss Connoisseurs?

Regards,
Neil

#18 Luis V.

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 11:28 PM

Wow....... talk about details! :blink: I have to agree with what was said so mentioning anything else will be a waste. I'll just let you in on what I do/have. I use the Markins head on a markins plate mounted to a set of Gitzo 1327 legs. I also put the Op/Tech leg wraps on the tripod. I tend to fling the legs over my shoulders and the padding helps. The head is glass smooth. I have the tension set to hold my heaviest lens (the 70-200 f/2.8) and the body. A 1/4 turn locks it. I love it. I also have a Kirk L-Bracket (i like the profile the best). I do this to keep the weight over the head. So when I shoot vertically, I release, turn the camera, and remount it to the head vertically. It's awesome. I spent a ton of money on over some time but wow........ what a wonderful setup.
Luis V.Nikon D800/D2X/D200/D100Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AFS | 24-70mm f/2.8 AFS | 70-200mm f/2.8 AFS VR-II | 200-400mm f/4 AFS | 50mm f/1.4D | 85mm f/1.4D | 105mm f/2.8 Macro

#19 Bill Dewey

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 12:14 AM

Well, I ALWAYS have an extra 2cents, or 2p, or 2Euro, or whatever the heck the currency is to throw in, so here I go.

As to the RRS clamps, I think they are great, but I would not purchase the Lever Release, simply because, per RRS, they only work properly with the RRS and Wimberly plats, not ones from Kirk or Acratech. Also, becuase I can tension "to taste" with the screw knob, I prefer that anyway.

As to length, hey, you don't need the longest, but the shortest can be too short for balance and such. I have had occasion where a camera, long lens (500/600) with a TC meant that I was close to the end of the foot/lens plate and I want as much positive mating as I can get. Read that anyway you want ....

Glad a couple of you found the Rons Rail of interest. I'm surprised the no one like RRS or Kirk makes something like that. RRS has some rails that couple with extension tubes and a couple of lenses, seems this could just be a longer version. Oh, well, I haven't been tempted enough to consider an $800 investment.

The Burzynski stuff is interesting, but finding a picture is a pain. So far I found this This Old One
for the 500p I believe, but I can't find a picture of the new one. I guess most folks don't find this of interest, although Bogen makes one that attached to the camera and down to a tripod leg. Adds support for sure, but you can't follow a moving object.

Luis, I think L-Brackets are the way to go if you shoot a lot both vertical and horizontal. And not only do you have the weight centered over the center of tripod mass, but you are guaranteed to be on the same level plane that way, rather than "flopping" the ball head down.

#20 Virgil

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 12:40 AM

Bill & Neil - as you both named RRS do you know anything about their lens foot for the 70-200VR? Their explanation why it is superior to a "normal" lensplate sounds reasonable - comments welcome! @ Neil - call me Bond ... James Bond ;) ... as you allready found Isarfoto whoīs the distributor of Rainer Burzynski iīd like to add his details: R. Burzynski Naturfotografie Spezial-Zubehör, Am Hufeisenstich 1, 16792 Zehdenick, Tel.: 033080/40570. Problem with him is that he neither has a homepage nor uses e-mail(!) So if you need something particular you have no other chance then either calling him or Isarfoto as it seems.
Cheers

Virgil

#21 Neil Rothschild

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 03:26 AM

Bill, I don't think we want to get into your mating habits here :lol:

Virgil, thanks for the sketch.

Luis, I'm surprised by all the Markins users here.

Here are a couple of snaps I promised earlier. I know Mule and Darrell are lurking so I'll get their juices going by saying that these two images were shot with my just arrived 28mm F/2 AI.

Here is the G1410 + M10. Kinda looks lost on that huge 4 series plate.

(D200 28mm F/2 Ai 1/4s F/2 ISO100)

Posted Image

Here is the G1228 + M20. Just a hair oversized; not as bad as I thought. Not too top heavy but I still think the M10 is the sensible head for these legs and that head will handle anything you might possibly put on those legs, and then some. I have become aware that a certain un-named member of this forum has actually put a 400 F/2.8 + TC14 + TC20 (yes, stacked) on this head and M10, and proceeded to shoot Egrets. Certain evidence has come into my possession indicating that at least two of the images were sharp enough to identify the species of the subjects :lol:

(The images were actually quite good!)

(D200 28mm F/2 Ai 2s F/4 ISO100)

Posted Image

In normal use, of course, the heads and legs are switched.

Regards,
Neil

#22 Dave Whiteley

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 08:10 AM

One other point for any beginners who have read this far is that many decent tripods do not always need to be used with all their leg sections fully extended for low angle shots. There is a correct way of using a "reduced height" tripod like this, and it is obvious when somebody points it out to you. Many beginners simply extend the thinest part of the legs first and leave the thicker parts telescoped. The correct method is to always extend the thickest part of the leg first for low angle work, and just keep extending the next thinner sections as you need them. Obviously the thicker the leg sections in use the more vibration free the tripod. If the tripod needs to be full height you have no choice but to extend everything, but this is always it's least stable configuration. Dave Whiteley
Nikon D200
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Manfrotto dual flash bracket

#23 Luis V.

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 10:35 AM

Some very good points here. Perhaps it might be a good idea to consolidate this and post anchor it. I agree, a great deal of Markins users. I would guess since we are Nikon users, many of us had exposure to it b/c of Nikonians and Markin's selling through them. They are excellent heads though. I love mine. As for the legs and tripods that go low. I think for the benefit of those that may not have seen these tripods before we should mention what we mean. Many of these tripods have the ability to support the camera very low to the ground. In some cases a mere 4 inches off the ground. The way most do this is by spreading or opening the legs out. This lowers the tripod. In some cases, like with the G1327 from Gitzo, the tripod comes with a center column that can be extended. When that column is down, however, it protudes in the center. Sometimes as much as 12 to 24 inches. This sticking out from the bottom makes it harder to lower the tripod. Lousy photo from Gitzo but you see what I mean below. Attached File  g1327a.jpg   41.29KB   12 downloads As you spread the legs you can see how we will go lower. However, you'll be limited by the center column. What some of us do is get the tripod with the center column and then replace it with either a short column (available from gtizo) or a third party base like the one photographed above under some of the Markins heads. This gives us the ability to use the tripod with or without the column. In general, though, I typically go with out the column. That ability to spread the legs in this way is excellent because it makes it an excellent way to deal with uneven ground. For example, supporting the camera in or around large stones, hillsides, etc. Another reason this is good is for macro or closeup photography. You can get real low to the ground. I use it from time to time when taking shots of kids. I can get way down to eye level with them.
Luis V.Nikon D800/D2X/D200/D100Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AFS | 24-70mm f/2.8 AFS | 70-200mm f/2.8 AFS VR-II | 200-400mm f/4 AFS | 50mm f/1.4D | 85mm f/1.4D | 105mm f/2.8 Macro

#24 mule_patterson

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 11:03 AM

OK, I'm coming out now, Neil. This is one of the best threads ever! While I lust for these support combinations, it'll be a while before I join you real pros in this hardware revelry. The education is priceless though and I will be back to determine best practice when I do purchase. Regarding tripods and ballheads in general, I'm glad you have dispelled the consumer models for their inadequacies - they are a lot of trouble to me. The 486QR is not a great design from any standpoint but is very well made - i keep one on my Bogen 681B Monopod buit seldom use it due to its cumbersome operation. My Manfrotto 3265 Grip Ballhead has been the best one I can afford but it is getting loose in its old age and squeaks too! I want to take it apart, clean it and reassemble for like-new performance - but am afraid I might have a hard time with it. might be easierr to buy new again. Anyway, it works very well with my 3221 Bogen legst. The wired shutter release works well and I get tack sharp results without any further dampening. So for all you lightweights like me, consider this combination - until you can go bigtime with a Markins at least! Thanks for all the info!
Brian "Mule" Patterson
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#25 Dave Whiteley

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 11:26 AM

I have one of these a Benbo Mk 1, so centre column getting in the way is not a problem, also it can stand in 18" of water without getting grit into the legs and collapse flat on the ground as well as sit up and beg! These original Benbo's are no longer made as he sold out to Unilock which made a lighter version, but then he set up again making a new Benbo though it is not quite as robust as the original one. Guess many thought the original too heavy to carry so he copied the Unilock a little more. Scroll down the page to see it:-

http://www.ophrysphotography.co.uk/pages/h...and%20tips2.htm

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#26 Luis V.

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 07:42 PM

OK, I'm coming out now, Neil.

This is one of the best threads ever! While I lust for these support combinations, it'll be a while before I join you real pros in this hardware revelry. The education is priceless though and I will be back to determine best practice when I do purchase.


I had a Manfrotto for years. I sold it to get the Gitzo. Those Manfrotto/Bogen legs are real nice. My biggest reason for selling was height and weight. With the Gitzo I can stand straight up and look into the viewfinder. In your case, if you are happy with the legs, and there is no reason not to be, worry about the tripod head.

BTW I anchored this thread.......

However, if somebody would voluteer to somehow summarize this it would be great...... ahemmmmm.... nobody in specific (Neil) but if anybody (Neil) would like to do me a huge favore (Neil) and summarize the thread it would make a great piece to anchor forever. Thanks Neil!..... ooops Freudian slip...... LOL

Just kidding....... it can be anyone...... but it'd be a great help so as to make it easier to read....... What do you all think?
Luis V.Nikon D800/D2X/D200/D100Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AFS | 24-70mm f/2.8 AFS | 70-200mm f/2.8 AFS VR-II | 200-400mm f/4 AFS | 50mm f/1.4D | 85mm f/1.4D | 105mm f/2.8 Macro

#27 Bill Dewey

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 08:06 PM

First of all, because I think he would be superb, I recommend that Neil take the lead in consolidating all of this information. Mainly because he posts have been even more wordy than mine :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Now, since you posted that nice image of the Gitzo, I would like to make a quick comment or two. The first is that I recommend a change to the title as this is now Anchored, and that we include Tripod as well so that folks won't think it is only Ballhead related.

I currently have 2 Gitzo tripods, a 1228 and a 1325. The 1325 I just purchased a few weeks ago, as I found a deal I could not pass up. Prior to that, but needing a tripod heavier than the 1228, I found a Giotto's at my local Pro Store which was a bit less than half the cost of the Gitzo. I don't often here the Giotto's name come up, but to be quite honest they are very well built, albeit the "head" that comes with them is a touch, well, different. However, like a couple of the Gitzo and Bogen models, they can be a real boon to the folks doing Macro, and the center column can be set horizontal, or at any silly angle you would like. Here is a link to the Giotto's Page for the latest version of the tripod, and here is a picture of the tripod: Posted Image.


They have models galore, look at the Products link. One of the things that impressed me was that we set up the Giotto's next to the Gitzo at the store and even the salesman could not point to anything "better" about the Gitzo except that it was 1 pound lighter. But, if I was heavily into shooting Macros, I'd sure like something that could articulate in this manner. In the more "normal" shooting position, the center column is straight down through the center of the tripod, the bit underneath is used to tighten the center column. You can take the column off completely, but the one drawback is that the sleeve below the top of the tripod does not come off, so you can only get the tripod down to a few inches off the ground, not quite flat.

#28 Luis V.

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 09:08 PM

First of all, because I think he would be superb, I recommend that Neil take the lead in consolidating all of this information. Mainly because he posts have been even more wordy than mine :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Now, since you posted that nice image of the Gitzo, I would like to make a quick comment or two. The first is that I recommend a change to the title as this is now Anchored, and that we include Tripod as well so that folks won't think it is only Ballhead related.


2, 4, 6, 8 who do we appreciate.......Neil...... Neil ...... Neil...........

OK OK......... Over the top..... B)

But that is two votes......

Also....... I changed the title.....Good Idea.

There is also another thread that Bryan (GokYu) started that is running in parallel. Perhaps we incorporate the two.
Luis V.Nikon D800/D2X/D200/D100Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 AFS | 24-70mm f/2.8 AFS | 70-200mm f/2.8 AFS VR-II | 200-400mm f/4 AFS | 50mm f/1.4D | 85mm f/1.4D | 105mm f/2.8 Macro

#29 Virgil

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 12:30 AM

If youīd ask me whoīs the tripod/head guru that can consolidate the given information one name flashes thru my mind .... NEIL :)
Cheers

Virgil

#30 Neil Rothschild

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 01:15 AM

I vote for Bill (why doesn't this forum software have a devil icon?) I had a long drive tonight and I got to thinking about this thread. I thought it would be an interesting idea to summarize the major gear available, with links to suppliers and manufacturers. It would also be interesting to add *opinions* on the gear that each piece is generally considered able to support. For example, I would say a Gitzo 1228 is good up to a 70-200VR or 300 F/4. I might put a "Maybe?" column and add 300 2.8 to mean that in a pinch it will work but is not optimum. Or maybe I should skip that. The danger, of course, is that it gets perilously close to brand wars but I think there are generally accepted real world loads associated with a lot of this gear. Personally I have gear that works for me and of course I recommend it but I am always curious about alternatives. I try to keep an open mind and I'm always open to input on the "dark side". The benefit, of course, is that most people are trying to support a certain lens but without a lot of research it is difficult to figure out how much support is needed. This would provide a starting point. It would not carry a guarrantee of satisfaction, though :rolleyes: Given enough time and funding, I could probably consolidate a lot of this thread. it would take some time though. Regards, Neil




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